Baptism connects us to generations of Christians before and after us. It is a bit like seeing a sliver of a section of Old U.S. Highway 40 and thinking that is all there is. Yet, beyond our immediate perception there is much, much more.
Let me explain. I grew up in Independence, Missouri, in the late 1950s and 1960s. Old U.S. Highway 40 (prior to the Interstate of the same name/number) was the big road in our town. This massive highway, at least to a small child it seemed massive, separated Independence from Raytown. Bev’s Root Beer Stand, The Blue Ridge Mall, and our local drive in movie theater were all on Highway 40. It was a most important highway in my judgment. My dad even said it was a key link to the rest of the world. Yet, at eight years old I had no idea what he meant.
Later I found out that this Old U.S. Highway 40 was the first U.S. highway that ran from sea to shining sea. It began in Atlantic City, New Jersey and finished its traverse of our country in San Francisco, California. If one were to drive this magnificent highway from end to end, one would see these sights along the way:
Cowtown Rodeo, New Castle, Maryland
Fort Necessity/Uniontown, Wheeling, West Virginia
The National Road Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Boonville and Independence, Missouri
Berthoud Pass and Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Salt Lake City, Utah and Winnemucca
. . . and, finally, San Francisco, California.
This highway linked two oceans and 14 states along the way. However, as a child, I would have never guessed that that one highway could have linked me to all that! And yet, in an analogous way, this is what baptism does for us. It reminds us that what we see today, “in our seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong” (Psalm 90:10) is not all there is.
Instead, God links us to our past, our future, and to our present, by saints before us and behind us, who are united with us in a pool of water and the holy spirit that reminds us: “This is my Son or Daughter, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Baptism joins us to God and to God’s saints who are to be our eternal brothers and sisters. This is the great line of splendor in which we disciples stand.